It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-November.  The Presidential election is now behind us and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy is still all too real for many on the East Coast.  This week, many in the marketing and promotion industry are heading to the Windy City for the 34th Annual Promotion Marketing Association Marketing Law Conference.  This year’s conference is titled, “Converging Platforms & Diverging Laws” and I’m honored to be giving a keynote address again this year.  Throughout the PMA Conference this week, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and perspectives with you.

The Promotion Marketing Association is one of the largest and most influential industry trade associations and has been since its inception in 1911.  PMA represents businesses that motivate behavior, activate response and build brands.  These disciplines include promotion, shopper/retailer, digital, sponsorship and experiential marketing.

The Way I See It

  • I see the PMA’s Annual Law Conference helping marketers and agencies understand the implications of new developments, regulatory updates, legislation, and the effect of new technologies shaping the marketing world.
  • I see candid presentations, panels, and conversations on the critical issues facing the industry:  digital and mobile, data and privacy data security, shopper marketing, the role of the regulators – Federal, state and local, self-regulation, consumer direct action, protection of children, and so much more.
  • I see the PMA changing as the industry changes, and I see the influence of PMA increasing as the industry grows and gains even greater influence.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Bonnie Carlson, the President of PMA, to give you an inside look at what is planned for this year’s Marketing Law Conference, current issues driving PMA’s work in the industry, and how PMA – and the industry – has changed since its inception just over 100 years ago.

I can’t believe it’s time again for the PMA Annual Marketing Law Conference. Can you give us some insight as to what the title of this year’s conference, “Converging Platforms & Diverging Laws,” means and how the panels and sessions aim to address it?

The title is a reflection of the continuing evolution of traditional media/tactics converging with new technology and the challenges this brings legally, often pioneering new ground and testing principles such as self-regulation, marketing to children and First Amendment rights.  Consumers are influenced by a myriad of media and are connected globally, especially because of the internet and social media, which also challenges the overlap or divergence of international and federal/state laws.

This year’s program really touches upon the key topics and issues brands and marketers face – the rise of social media, the importance of the mobile platform, the new regulations and regulators (like the CFPB), the focus on consumer activation, and the need to succeed in a global economy.  Given the developments during the past few months alone, what do you think will be the main themes driving your industry next year?

The consumer will continue to be in charge, expecting more transparency, authenticity and value from brands.  Marketers and retailers will continue to be pressured to do more with less, to advance new technology, stay competitive with a speed-to-market mentality, and have accountability for results.  On the legal side, the themes will be a focus on privacy rules (dot com guidelines, mobile app, and International data privacy rules), renewed attention to the COPPA rules, health and food claims, and cyber cafes.

PMA recently celebrated its centennial, which is very exciting.  My firm celebrated its centennial in 2006.  100 years is a long time. Obviously, the industry changes over the past 100 years are extreme, but I’d love to hear some thoughts about how PMA has changed recently – in terms of the association’s biggest concerns, strategic focus, etc.

The PMA is going through an exciting time right now as the Board has made the decision to rebrand the association, after 101 years, as the Brand Activation Association.  This is an active response to changes in our industry brought about by the explosion of digital, social and mobile communication.  It’s time for us to grow beyond the narrow traditional definition of “promotion” so we can better serve brand management and legal professionals.  As the umbrella organization for brand activation, we will strive to be the go-to source for information and best practices on all forms of brand activation.  Look for many new improvements and resources over the next 6 months.

What’s it like running a trade association compared to your other prior positions – senior marketing positions at major marketers and agencies?

On the brand side, I liked the depth of knowledge I had about my brand – I understood all facets whether it was about marketing, sales, distribution, legal issues, etc. I felt very informed.  On the agency side, I felt I traded depth for breadth, having the opportunity to work on a number of brands and industries, taking lessons learned from one business and applying them to another. It was a great creative experience. On the association side, I experience the same broad perspective across industries as I did on the agency side, but I am exposed to legal issues as well as marketing issues and, in representing the industry, I can do more to advance the industry as a whole, through advocacy, education, and research.  I think it is very helpful that I have sat in the seat of many of our members – big marketer, big agency, entrepreneur/business owner – and truly understand the perspectives of each.

What is the coolest thing in your office right now?

Literally, right now, the coolest thing in our office is the temperature – we haven’t had heat for two weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit! Once the heat returns, the coolest thing is some of the new young people we’ve hired who are really advancing our initiatives in mobile and social media.